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Seeing more – back out night riding again

Its autumn. That means no more ATBA-UK competitions and the evenings get darker earlier, both of which means its time to get back out night riding.

I nompa’d up and headed out to my local woods. I taped a head torch to my helmet and did my usual warm up run. I then switched the torch off and headed down a new run I’d never ridden before.

To ride in the dark you need to be able to switch off your brain, stop thinking, just let your body feel what’s happening and respond. You can see, just not much. The trick is to not try to see in the same way you see in daylight. During the day you use the rods in the centre of your eyes to see in colour and in detail. In the dark your rods no longer work, which means you have a blind spot in the centre of your field of vision, and instead, you use the cones around the outside of your eyes which see in blurry black and white.

So, if you ride through the woods in the dark and try to see with your rods you’ll get freaked out by the blurry black spot in the middle of your field of vision. Instead, you need to accept that you can only see the blurry grey blobs either side of where you are riding. And then, as you know where the sides of the track are you can orientate yourself and stay on the right line. You just have to stop your brain from thinking so it can orientate you quickly when you’re riding at speed.

Riding a track you’ve never ridden before in complete darkness is an awesome way to experience the leading edge of reality. Its direct experience with nothing getting in the way. Totally here and now.